Adventures in grand parenting began this week! It is an honor and delight to be entrusted with a precious angel. When Grammy is part clown and part calamity, the challenge is real. Three rules that are ever present in my mind are: 1. NEVER leave the baby unattended. 2. Do NOT multitask while holding the baby. 3. Hold and hug the baby as much as she likes. Spoiling my grand daughter is the ultimate goal. After years of what my daughters might describe as strict discipline and high expectations for them, I now get to be the model for frolic and fun.
Day three of daytime duty with Lilliana did result in my first casualty. We were strolling down the sidewalks that had trees providing a bit of shade. Finally, it occurred to me that Lilliana should be facing away from the eighty degree sunshine. The stroller with all its warning signs did not have a handle that flips, so I turned the whole vehicle around and I pushed the stroller from the back, with the forward wheels nipping at my feet. At the first street crossing I stubbed my little toe on the wheel. Sounds minor, but it really smarted so I stopped to rub it. Sweet baby girl squawked to get the wheels rolling, so onward I hobbled around the block to hear her coo once again. When we returned home she was sound asleep. I filled a bowl with ice water for a foot soak. Ahhhh. My pinky toe still turned purple and is throbbing a bit.
This painful incident reminds me that we cannot protect our children from all the pain they will experience in their lives; from skinned knees and tummy aches to disappointment and heart aches. Life is full of pain. We try to fight the agony, medicate it and ignore it with little success. Sometimes misery leads to drastic measures to alleviate it. Some of the side effects are addictions, accidents and tragedy. Finding a healthy answer to manage our hurts requires patience and rest to allow the mind and body to heal. In extreme cases, we need professional help. Doctors, Pastors and Counselors are better equipped to manage illness when we can no longer cope on our own. We cannot wish or pray away the torment people feel when they are angry or grieving. We must recognize the dangers of emotional pain and respond with radical compassion.
I write this while baby cakes is snoozing in her swing and my foot is elevated. It is impossible for me to nap while processing the violent events in the State of Florida where my children live. I am not afraid for their future even though it seems there is no safe place. It makes me angry that I cannot protect them, but I know that God has them covered until they have completed their purpose on earth. If you have any wise and creative ideas for action against violence and the agony it causes; please post them and add the hashtag #AngerintoAction. Maybe we can join together to prevent the needless side effects.
Next time I stroll, I will wear my old steel toed work boots for protection. Flip flops in Florida seemed reasonable, but were in fact foolish. I hope one day Lilliana will appreciate my silliness, and be the one to push my wheelchair when I am very old.
This week, I could not find my bible and was sure that I lost it, or left it somewhere. What I am losing is small parts of my crowded memory. I really don’t use my bible much because I read scripture online everyday. The internet is so easy for finding the right verse for any situation, and to copy and paste it on social media. I have come to realize this has caused some people to “unfollow” me on Facebook, but they probably have never really followed me anywhere anyway. I continued to search the car, under the couch, the project piles and closets. Finally, I called the leader of my bible study, feeling a bit embarrassed, and asked if I left it at her house. She could not find it anywhere either and did not chide me for my neglect. I then had visions of the shepherd who searched for the lost sheep. He left the ninety-nine and searched until he found the little lamb. So, I continued to look and there it was in my desk with all the Bible studies that our group had completed. In essence, I have been in bible study therapy now for seven years.
Charleston has been a place for strengthening my mental and spiritual wellness. Physical challenges increase with age of course, but the spirit and soul can balance our deficiencies by a focus on the things that really matter. Love, joy, peace, faith and kindness is the short list if you want to count on one hand. On the other hand there is patience, gentleness, willpower, service and forgiveness. Service is my word for goodness, and willpower is how I would describe self-control that is within the will of God. If we put our hands together on these ten things, we are in a position to pray. Prayer is a way to invite God into every aspect of our lives that matter. I am praying for the best of health for all of us. As our bodies and memories start to fail, I pray for peace, love and joy to take a stronger hold for our transition into eternity.
Love is being celebrated on February 14th, and this allows us to express with effusive joy, how much we care for one another. Tragically, we fall short of fulfilling the desires of everyone who is seeking to be loved. We sometimes have expectations that are never met either. This is because we want people to meet our impossible standards instead of seeking the source of love, which is God. God may touch our lives through other people. Sadly, we will never be satisfied until our focus is on the love we can give to others, instead of the things we want them to give us. That last thing I count on the other hand is forgiveness. If we forgive others with kindness when they do not meet our standards, then our real love can flow freely. Well, back to my bible, the greatest of all valentines, for a little reading about real love. Now, where did I put my reading glasses?
Yesterday, I burned my thumb on the toaster and it blistered, despite my efforts to immediately cool it down with ice cubes. The problem was the crocheted hot pad I was using. I gripped the tray too tight and the heat zinged against the portion of my thumb that was exposed. When I hollered and hopped over to the freezer, my hubby came to the rescue with a proper hot pad to pull the tray holding the cubed sweet potato out of the toaster. He said sagely, “You should not be using holy hot pads” It is understood that all things holy would be righteous and perfect in a sacred setting. The lacy hot pads I like to use were made by my Grandma, and possibly by her mother, too. I cherish their artwork and have sweet thoughts of them when I am cooking. Just the mention of fried chicken, Swedish meatballs, potato pancakes, or Swedish rye bread takes me right back to happy days at my grandma’s house. They fed us so well with their signature comfort foods. We went to Bethlehem Lutheran Church with my Grandma Anderson for special occasions, and all her sisters were there with their hubbies. I could never hear them sing, but the organ music was magnificent. My Grandma Harper did not attend church until the summer I stayed with her, before attending Valparaiso University. We walked to church every Sunday, because neither of us had a car. She told me she was raised in a Catholic family, but going to church was never part of the Sunday routine for her three boys. Later, my father would say my mother “converted” him. Together, they served in every capacity at the churches where ever we lived. My brothers and I continued in the Lutheran traditions of our parents with our own families. I did have a few years of the Presbyterian experience at my hubby’s church, before I “converted” him. I still view the theology that I was taught since preschool to be rock solid. Our Faith Journey, however, has taken a new direction. We now attend a contemporary service at Seacoast, a non denominational church based in Mount Pleasant. It is there that I find the concept of “holy” more relevant and attainable. I am still growing my faith and finding new purposes in the transitions of my life. I have found that serving others is the way of life that most fills my heart. God knows me and my need to be connected. God’s love is so full of forgiveness and mercy that I am redeemed every day in spite of my blunders. A little burn may sting for a time, but I am protected from the greater enemy through the redemption that Jesus offers. I am not going to trade in my “holy” hot pads. I will use them for more genteel efforts. I am trusting the Lord and his hefty hot pads for the bigger jobs.
This week, I returned home and heard voices upstairs. It sounded like a friendly conversation. “Hello”, I said with a bit of question or perhaps warning in my voice. I was answered back with a Proverb: “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” The television screen was dark, but from it came the voice of an evangelist speaking the truth from Proverbs 10. I had not watched the TV in two days, so how could it suddenly be on? No ghosts in my house except the Holy Spirit. I grabbed the remote and clicked to get a better picture of the situation. The program was Andy Wommack on Channel 2 – not a station I ever watch. Curiouser and curiouser. I listened until the commercial and my mind remained on the fountain of life. The Spanish Conquistadors thought they discovered it in St Augustine, Florida. Our children had lived there a short time, so we had visited and were indeed enthralled by the beauty. What is the purpose of a fountain of life or youth? Water itself is for cleansing, refreshing, and hydration. It is an essential for life. Can the right words cleanse, refresh and saturate us with vitality? Solomon believed this to be so, and so do I.
Complaints, criticisms and accusations do the opposite of revitalization. Negative words suck the life out of our soul and spirit. Finding tiny faults or implying character flaws are not constructive ways to build relationships or help people to improve. They are in fact a form of bullying- they are sink holes instead of fountains. To often, parents speak words they feel are necessary to instruct their children, but create a sink hole that leaves the family grabbing at dirt to climb out. Friends do this as well when talking about other people. When we highlight the problems or flaws that annoy us, instead of pointing out the positive that draws us closer, it is like quick sand where we slowly lose ourselves. An example is that my hubby and I try to always be on time, if not early, because we value the time of others. We have teased our daughters for being more lax about sticking to a schedule. We have scoffed at those who cancel appointments and break commitments. We are trying to be less critical and more relaxed and patient with others, so our relationships do not disappear in the sink hole of judgement.
So, let’s get back to the water feature that splashes us with refreshment and gladdens our heart. Our words do not need to be just compliments on how a person looks, because that is shallow. Deeper waters will give us words of support and encouragement without adding guilt or regret. Don’t we all appreciate hearing positive input from our friends and family? Scintillating gusts of water are the words that tell others how wonderful they make us feel. The Holy Spirit is our professional editor that will help us choose words to create a beautiful fountain of life. That Spirit will also tell us when we have chosen the wrong words and need to ask for forgiveness. When you hear voices coming from upstairs, it is best to listen. I am now feeling in need of a shower.
Thursday, I went to Coastal Rowing Studio to get a full body workout in the rowing 101 class. I brought my own bottle of ionized water in a plastic reusable water bottle, that was a gift from Radiant Church when we were visiting in Tampa, Florida. I took a big chug of water before we got started and my face contorted into a nasty grimace. “What is wrong Kim?” Asked Suzanne. “I just got a mouth full soapy water!” I said while letting my tongue hang out. I had rinsed the bottle, but evidently forgot the cap could be harboring some detergent. My immediate thought was a flashback to having my mouth washed out by my mother for speaking some atrocity. I believe I did the same to my own daughter when she was impressionable. I regret corporal punishment of any kind, but Mothers want to teach their children to use lovely language and always tell the truth. The soap may have been a reminder for a time, but it doesn’t reach the brain that makes the decisions on what to think and say. If only we could have an occasional “brain wash” to take away all negative and untruthful thinking. There is only one way to keep our mind on joyful, peaceful, and loving thoughts: with constant thanksgiving. Thanksgiving takes the place of complaints, worry, anger and confusion. I love to sing thanksgiving to God wherever I can. I often write down the things I am thankful for from the smallest (such as tasty grains of spice) to the largest (such as our comfortable home). I am learning to also be thankful for the small viruses that make us feel horrible but build our immunity, and big weather catastrophes that draw communities together to help and rebuild. We are asked by God to give thanks in everything. The truth is that God created a world that constantly renews. This includes our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. So, I have signed up for fourteen sessions of rowing. I hope to meet my friends there and make some new ones while we pull together and sweat it out. This requires hydration-no soap. Bring your nice clean water bottles and enjoy some exercise that is full body and low impact workout. I feel stronger already with no soreness. I would not tell a lie.
Last week, I took my dinner of a healthy kale salad, with an assortment of veggies in rainbow colors placed artistically on top, to the upstairs TV room. Hubby made a huge jar of his famous Dijon vinaigrette salad dressing for me to use when he is not home. I use it sparingly because it adds ample zest to any dish. It now has added robust flavor and design to the light blue stripped easy chair. Somehow, as I was setting down my glass of tea, I neglected to keep my plate level. I heard the light squeak of my fork sliding against the porcelain and turned to see salad dressing dribbling off my plate, onto the arm rest, down into the crevasse between the cushion and the arm, and off my pants onto the cushion. Just for a moment it looked like a beautifully designed Japanese waterfall. My guttural sound of self loathing sounded like a Sumo Wrestler ready to attack. The plate went to the coffee table, and I went to work with paper towels, and a wet cloth dowsed with Dawn dish liquid. As you know, olive oil is a tough customer when trying to remove it from cloth. The chair dried overnight, but still has the aroma of garlic. I flipped the cushion and replaced it so the shadow of dressing would not show. Hopefully, it will not attract all the Southern bugs I live with. The key word in this story is “level”. Too often we multitask and lose a level of balance. Our attention is diverted and another task slips from our control. How do we keep level headed with all that women are expected to do? Note that most men stick to one task at a time and complete it before starting another. Ask them to hold a baby while cooking dinner, and vacuuming up the dust bunnies; then they learn the difficulties of multitasking that women are able to do so well. Add to that a full time job and taking calls to organize a fundraiser and a staff meeting; the balance is likely to bounce up and down like a teeter totter. This is what mothers are expected to do. It should be easier as a grandmother in retirement, and it is until we overcommit in the volunteering sector. Time management is a very important skill. I taught my hubby to cook and the babies learned to vacuum so I could spend more time lesson planning and evaluating my student’s progress. Okay, hubby was already a great cook and the babes were off swimming, dancing and singing. Somehow, we got through every day and I look back and marvel. It may be exhaustion that causes me to be such a clown in my winding down years. Through it all, we took time to worship the God of goodness and love every week. I believe the focus I had came from the Holy Spirit that leveled me when I went cockeyed. The joy comes from Jesus who forgives all my faux pas. Keep a level mind, keep your body in balance, and always start everything with prayer for the best in faith fitness. And I will continue with my balanced diet and watch what I am eating so that I stop feeding the easy chair.
This week, I could not believe all the excitement over snow in Charleston. I ventured out in my boots and immediately hit an ice patch and landed on my tuckus. The concrete driveway that appeared to be shoveled was deceiving. It was not a soft landing, but thankfully nothing is broken. I’m sure some bruises will arrive later. My neighbors Butch and Linda decided to go to the grocery and gave me a ride. There was rutabaga and avocados left in the produce department. Apparently, it had been raided two days before in a mad rush for supplies, and trucks could not get to us for two days. The roads were completely covered in ice and precarious without the advantage of salt. Butch demonstrated his fishtail and recovery skills very well, and even stopped so we could greet neighbors and take pictures of the white phenomenon. Meanwhile, back in Ohio, the hubby reports the continuous accumulation of snow and the dreaded drifts. This morning he tried to power through a moderate mound of snow blowing across the road, and got stuck two houses away from home. So he trudged through on foot and got a shovel to dig himself out. We both agree that we are a little advanced in age for these kinds of physical activities. Our Pastor discussed the the black ice he encountered and compared it to the lessons in Ephesians 4. We set our selves up for a fall when we encounter falsehoods. Negative ideas we tell ourselves, and lies we tell others will culminated in a slippery icy path that cannot be traversed. Likewise, being stuck in a drift causes us to veer from our true path and purpose. We simply cannot drift along with the popular ideas of the times, or allow the persuasion of others sway our thinking. The snow is beautiful and brilliant as it whitens the landscape that people have cluttered. What a wonderful reminder of how we look after the forgiveness of Christ. Start fresh each day and take caution. Deceivers are waiting to throw us off track. Stay on the sure and proven path, but don’t forget to stop once in a while to capture the sweet memories.
Yesterday, I had a mountaintop experience. We have been visiting our children for a week in Albuquerque. They planned an extensive amount of activities to make sure we got the full flavor of the Southwest. This included a walk through Old Town, and a night of dancing. We went to a Christmas Eve Service on Sunday morning at their local church. This included a children’s choir who filled our hearts with joy as they sang with enthusiasm. Afterward, we drove to Santa Fe and visited the Georgia O’Keefe museum where we learned that she was a pioneer for women in the arts. Christmas Day we welcomed friends from the Air Force to feast together. The evening concluded with robust singing that we decided to take to the streets and to the local Fire Station. Caroling is a great way to thrill and confuse the neighbors who had not yet met our children. Some brought out cookies and water, others called their own children from their beds to come down and listen. These are the “moments” we live for. On our last day, we drove to Acoma Sky City, a Pueblo village on top of a Mesa that dates back eight hundred years. It was there that we marveled at the stunning Mountain views and outcroppings of rock that looked like ancient statues. In the village we watched the native people craft pottery and sell beaded turquoise jewelry. No pictures were allowed there, so I tried to seer into my mind the sienna and terra cotta clay hues, the faces of the children and the chocolate rust colored skin of the people. Their homes were without water or electricity, but they gave them occasional mud facials to the exteriors to fill in the cracks and to preserve their ancestor’s legacy. Then came the highlight within the walls of the church which was built through the conversion to Catholicism by Spanish Conquistadors. The ceremonial dancing in full regalia that was handmade by the Pueblo Natives. The mesmerizing drumbeat and chanting set the pace for the dancer’s well choreographed steps on the hard packed clay floor. We were encouraged to go up to the altar to see the baby Jesus that was wrapped in a powder blue fleece blanket that had a whale motif. This was somewhat incongruous to the costumes and designs being worn by the dancers. Jesus’s face was made of the same clay as the pottery, the design was simple but expressive. From the altar we watched as men danced with real buffalo heads or elk antlers as headdresses. The women were in white and turquoise embroidered cloth. They were young and energetic. The aroma of pine and jasper wood was burning outside while several groups lined up to enter the sanctuary for their dance. We missed the bus to take us back down, so we walked back along the steep paved road. The village looked lost in time and blended in with the stone colors. Sadly to me, there were cars in front of the doorways that broke the illusion of an ancient city. Our illusions of history is what our faith has been built on. That, and the written words of those who walked with Christ or listened to the first accounts of the disciples. The sacred traditions and connection to the past is preserved by the crucial words in the text, just like the Native Americans strive to preserve their history through their dances and stories. Today’s text messages bear little resemblance to the ancient rendition of sacred text. It is imperative that we review them often and write them on our heart. My mountain top experience was a reminder that people praise God in many fashions and tell the story of their people to preserve the past. This is not just to show how far we have come, but to keep the faith that we will be taken to even greater heights. Climb carefully and take time to enjoy the view. Happy New Year.
Written by Kim Cordell
While my daughter was past the due date for the birth of her baby, we stopped at an artisanal ice cream shop. After enjoying flavors I had never had before in my ice cream, like lavender and lava, we walked to the car through a roughly paved parking lot. I spotted a tiny turquoise sparkle on the ground before I open the car door. Rarely do I pick things up from the ground any more. My children had told me years ago to stop picking up pennies, which I see all the time, and I am sure I could be a dollar richer if I did not listen to them. This time, I could not resist bending over to have a closer look, and then picked up what looked to be a precious gem. It must certainly be a glass crystal that fell off of someone’s clothing, or maybe a part of costume jewelry that dislodged. Such a pretty color of the Caribbean Ocean, with multiple facets and a sparkle that rivaled my engagement ring; I put it snuggly in my purse with no plan. Bethany later inspected the gem and looked it up online. She pronounced it to be a topaz, which is the designated birthstone for November. I set it on the table and thought I might take it to a Jeweler to evaluate its worth and have it set for my granddaughter to someday cherish.
The much anticipated birth took place on the last day of November. Since then, it has been two weeks of visitors, gifts, diaper changes, cuddles and finding the new rhythm of life. A few times, I asked discerning guests to look at the gem and evaluate or guess what they think it is. Some said plastic, and most agreed that a precious stone would not be sitting in a parking lot. Then it was lost for several days and I felt disappointed that I did not protect the tiny piece by putting it in a safe spot that would be easy to remember.
In my pensive mood, I thought how the gem represents the story of the season. A baby is born who has been anticipated for hundreds of years. This infant Messiah is the gem that is more precious than gold, and yet he was born to humble parents. He starts his life in a stable, but is found and recognized as something special by unlikely people. Throughout his life, many people question who he is and what he is worth. Intellectuals are amazed but skeptical about Jesus’s skills and knowledge. He draws attention by setting a sparkling example on how to serve and care for others. Some doubt that he is anything more than a carpenter’s son, and others want to know more. They try to tap into his power and hold onto him. This babe is proclaimed to be the son of God, and Christ our Savior. As an adult, he encourages all the followers to love their neighbor as well as their enemy. He compels us to walk as children of the light.
After cleaning the house, Bethany finds the gem hiding under some paperwork. We put it in a sealed baggie and back into my purse. Maybe tomorrow I will take it to a jeweler to see about setting it so it can be preserved as a keepsake. It might possibly be of great value, or it may only be glass. It represents something that was lost and is now found. It is a small sparkle that will only be significant by the way it is treated and presented. Just like the Christ child, it is an unexpected gift that I did nothing to deserve. Priceless
This week, I struggled to break the magnetic force that kept me in the easy chair. Colder weather is my signal to wrap up in a blanket with a book. And the start of the Holiday Hallmark Movie specials that are all romance and magic, are a perfect escape from the nightly news. Add to that a hot cup of tea and I get stuck in the crevices of the couch cushions. This of course is an unhealthy situation. The only solution is to break free of the blankie and get on the floor for some stretches. Oh relief at last, that sciatic nerve was wondering if I was paying attention. The muscles have started to rejoice and a few bones unlocked with a clickity pop along the spine. It is so easy and inexpensive to do stretches, and some of them work wonders on the nagging pains. There was a time fifteen years ago, when I would stretch myself thin. When I worked as a teacher, prepared for holidays, catered to my children, participated in church life, and attempted to make Christmas wonderful and perfect. I am more relaxed these days. Some traditions have even been dropped as our family migrates South. I do miss the caroling in the snow and the Live Christmas pageant practice that included sheep and a donkey. We now enjoy the seventy degree weather of Florida and the crab crack that has become a new tradition. I don’t know if millennial men and women go crazy with the baking, decorating, letter writing, gift shopping, holiday parties and family dinners with all the china and crystal, like we used to do. It is not as important as “being” together. Stretching the imagination is still a big part of the holiday, as each year a new Star Wars movie comes out. Stretching the budget is still a tradition; more for travel as people crowd the airports and roadways to get to something that feels like home. Stretching the truth to keep the spirit of Santa alive is a common occurrence. In the final stretch of preparation, I pray we remember the birth of Christ. Every newborn changes the lives of the family, but none so much as the newborn King. As our family waits for a new arrival, I will not forget the thousand years that others waited for a Messiah. We are saved by the forgiveness that God gives us through Jesus. There is no gift as generous as his grace and sacrifice. And what we can give back is love. We might run out of money, food or gas, but never love. We might forget the stories, the truth, the spirit of Santa; but never will the Holy Spirit leave you empty. I am done with Hallmark that has not mentioned the glory of the Lord even once in all the Christmas gathering in the snow filled streets. I am ready to gather in His name, to get out of my easy chair and to prepare the way. All praise to the newborn King- Sing hallelujah!